Monday 20 March 2017

Hotel Review: The Taaras Beach & Spa Resort, Redang

Earlier this month, I was invited to stay at The Taaras Beach & Spa Resort, which is located on Redang Island, one of the most popular islands/beach destinations in Terengganu and in Malaysia. The invitation was in conjunction with the launching of their chartered flight service by Prima Air that would bring convenience to many of their guests who can now opt to fly directly into Redang Island from Kuala Lumpur on the 3-times weekly service.

To tell the truth, though, I’d never heard of the Resort until a few weeks back despite the fact that I’ve been to the island twice prior to the invitation. An acquaintance had mentioned and gushed about the beauty of The Taaras while another shared a blog post that gave a bad review of the service and food at the Resort.

The bad review kind of put me in a spot. I’ve never really had a bad stay at any hotels or resorts that I can recall of, so consequently, I’ve never had any problem recommending (or doing a review on here, like this post that you’re reading, heh!) those hotels and resorts. Many thoughts crossed my mind. “What if I have a bad experience there too?” Or worse, “What if I actually have a great experience and I write about it, would my readers believe me or would they just say, “Of course you’re going to say good things about the place, your stay was sponsored”? I know I would probably be cynical too, heh!

Long story short, I decided to give it a go as I understand that individual’s experience can easily be different from one another, even on the same day, what more when it’s a few months apart. So after some hesitation, I accepted the invitation and looked forward to the stay and #RediscoverRedang.

Below is my review of The Taaras Beach & Spa Resort following my 4D/3N (Free and Easy) stay there in early March 2017.

1. The Resort 

The Taaras Beach and Spa Resort is a 5-star resort under Malaysia’s Berjaya Groups. A bespoke private beach residence with 184 rooms, suites and a villa on its compound on the beautiful island of Redang just off the coast of Terengganu in Malaysia, the name – Taaras – reflects what the Resort means to the hotel group, their most prized possession, for the word “Taara” means “Goddess of the Sea”, “The Star “and “The Apple of My Eye” in Sanskrit.

While the Resort has always been owned by Berjaya Groups over the years, I found out that the management of the Resort, however, has recently changed hands and is now directly under Berjaya Hotels & Resorts group since October 2016, just before the Resort was closed for the year due to the east coast monsoon season.

Our visit in early March, therefore, coincided with the end of the monsoon season and the reopening of the Resort for the year 2017. It thus can be considered as a new opening under the new management as well, I suppose.

1a. The Journey 

We travelled overnight by bus from Kuala Lumpur and arrived in Kuala Terengganu after about 6 hours. Our driver, unfortunately, had keyed-in Marang jetty for direction and we almost ended up at that jetty instead of Merang jetty, which is located on the other side of Kuala Terengganu, the state capital of Terengganu. Luckily we still managed to get to the (brand spanking new) Merang jetty in time for our boat transfer to Redang Island, some 45km off the coast of Terengganu.

Tip: If you’re driving and planning to take a boat from Merang jetty to get to Redang Island, do make sure that it’s “Merang”, and not “Marang”. The jetty in Marang is used for Kapas Island, another beautiful island destination in Terengganu.

The boat ride to Redang was quite interesting. It was the end of monsoon season in Terengganu and due to the changing season, the water turned out to be really, really choppy. When we boarded our boat, the crew packed our luggage in plastic bags and the captain, whilst handing out ponchos, asked if we would mind getting wet. None of us did, but then again we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, heh! I’ve experienced choppy waters while at sea during the squid jigging festivals in Terengganu back in 2014 and 2015 but this was nothing like it. Imagine a ride at a water theme park that comes complete with big waves, and you get the idea. There was no way we could've stayed dry at all during the boat journey. Sounds like a horrible experience, no? Well, personally, not really. I was laughing all along the 1.5-hour boat ride to Redang, enjoying the ride which I would probably liken to getting on a roller coaster ride at a theme park, except that the ride is on a boat and at an open sea. What an adrenaline rush that was!

A couple of sea sickness pills that I had downed some 2 hours earlier probably had helped a bit though, heh! 😅

Tip: The Taaras Beach & Spa Resort is open from March to October every year and is closed during monsoon season. If you’d like to avoid choppy water, try to avoid going to the island in early March or very late in October. In our case, the water was already rather calm during our return journey just a few days later.

There’s a pickup service to the Resort waiting when we arrived at the picturesque Redang Island jetty. 

1b. The Reception

The lobby of the Resort is located not far from the main entrance. The reception area is spacious, with plenty of sofas for guests. We were offered a welcome drink and scented cold towel, both of which were very much welcome after the 1.5-hour roller-coaster boat ride. Check-in process was smooth and I was assigned to Suite 249, a 1-bedroom Cliff Premier Suite that is located up on a hill and perched on a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean and bay below. Resort guests are transported to their room/suite using a buggy service from the reception, and that’s what I did too, obviously. 😁

1c. The Suite 

The 1-bedroom Cliff Premier Suite, at 100 square meters, is very spacious for two people, let alone for a single occupant. Upon entry, there’s a small kitchen area and a dining table with the living room just beyond them. Next door (still inside the suite, of course!), there is one en-suite king-bed room with the bathroom having separate bathtub and shower areas. And the bathtub? It’s actually a whirlpool tub (they call it Spa bathtub) located separately from the bathroom, on a freestanding area that overlooks the Garden Suites, the beach, the bay and the sea beyond. How cool (and romantic) is that? 😍😍😍

The moment I saw the jacuzzi with a view, I was already unsure whether I should care enough to go down to the beach and explore the rest of the Resort or just remain in the suite and utilise the "Spa bathtub". Irish brand, Voya bath products and the loofahs were just screaming at me asking to be used. 😉

The mattress and bed are firm and very comfortable. Linens and towels felt fluffy and luxurious. This might be a small matter but I love the fact that there's a ceiling fan in the room on top of the air-conditioning. It gave me the option to let the fresh sea breeze into the room and suite without wasting electricity on the a/c.

The bathroom, with two sinks, is designed for a couple. They made me feel very lonely, I must say! Now have you had any bathroom done this to you before? I bet not! Haha! 😁 The toilet comes with a bidet, which, I believe, is very unusual in Kuala Lumpur, what more in Redang and Terengganu. In between the bathroom and the kitchen/dining area is a walk-in wardrobe, with plenty of space for luggage and clothes. You can also find slippers, safety deposit box, umbrella and a Muslim's prayer mat (sejadah) inside the walk-in wardrobe.

Overall, the suite is well furnished with a combined touch of luxury, modern and old days feel (especially the living room).

Every evening, there’s the turndown service when a housekeeping crew would come in and prepare the bed for you to use for the night, but not before leaving a small bottle of pillow mist spray and some confectioneries like chocolates or cookies for you to enjoy before you call it a night. (Diet? What diet?)

If you’re planning a family holiday here, you can choose to combine Cliff Premier Suite with the smaller Cliff Premier Twin Rooms, both of which can be interconnected.

If the family is big, or you’re with a small group of up to 10, and… have some extra cash to splash, go for their signature 3-storey 5-bedroom Taaras Villa. Their 16m infinity pool alone, which overlooks the bay, impressed every single one of us in the group. Luckily we got to spend some great time at the Villa (and the infinity pool) too.

The infinity pool and the view from The Taaras Villa.

1d. Breakfast

Say what? Cheese...
The breakfast buffet is served in the ASEAN All Day Dining Restaurant, which serves both Malaysian and international specialities. The selection is quite good and fairly balanced between local and standard international breakfast fares. What I loved most about breakfast here is the selection of cereals, fruit juice and cheese! It’s not just the typical selection of 2 to 3 options, mind you.

Other than that, I loved the mee goreng mamak. Their nasi dagang – a Terengganu delicacy and local favourite – is not bad either. Oh, and its selection of desserts too! I especially loved the bread and butter pudding and some of the local kuih (desserts). It seems like they have a different buffet menu for every single day, which is an important factor to consider if you're staying here on a full-board basis for a few days.

As mentioned earlier, I've noted that the Resort previously – based on some reviews – has received some flak for their food (both in terms of quality and selection). I personally have no complaint about breakfast (or other meals here for that matter). As I've never stayed at the Resort prior to this trip, I can't really compare, although I remember thinking, "maybe the new management is really doing something about it, and it's showing some results already".

Oh wait, I actually did have something that I didn't like. Two complaints, actually. One, the waffles that I had for breakfast one morning was rather chewy. I thought it was just me but this was confirmed by a few others from the group too. Not sure if it was just a one-off as I didn't try the waffles again throughout my stay at the Resort. Another is the roti canai/paratha bread, which I thought I personally could make better.

Okay, that's not 100% true. I lied. I don’t really cook, so what I actually meant is that I thought I could have gone and bought a packet of frozen roti canai from Tesco and heat them better myself, haha! 😜 But then again, I’d put this down to just personal preference rather than say that the roti canai was bad. It's not bad. It’s just that I prefer the flaky ones, that’s all. 😊 #flakyroticanaiforthewin

Apart from that, the few people whom I asked for their opinions on breakfast, and the meals at this restaurant in general, gave their thumbs up to the food and variety of the selection on offer. Everyone I asked (Okay, fine! Everyone = at least 4 people maybe) had his/her own favourite meals and dishes that are different from each other's favourites. I guess that's some sort of a testimony that the buffet on offer is good and does cater to a variety of taste buds. 

1e. Internet Access 

Internet access is supposed to be available for free via Wi-Fi throughout the Resort. In my case, however, I could only get the signal and access at the lobby and restaurant area, and on the first two days only. There’s not much signal in the suite, unfortunately. I suppose the Wi-Fi signal is the strongest around the lobby, the restaurants and Garden Suites area by the beach.

At first, I was a bit annoyed by this. I mean, how am I going to share updates and show off photos of this beautiful Resort on Twitter and Instagram, right? *shuddering with withdrawal symptoms* Haha! After a while, however, I got used to it and decided to enjoy my time at the Resort instead, and enjoy it I did! It was quite refreshing to be disconnected from the online world for a few days.

(Later, however, I found out that it was only me who couldn’t get access to the free Wi-Fi in the lobby and restaurant area after Day 2, so it was probably more of a problem with my mobile phone rather than with the Wi-Fi service itself, heh! 😰) 

1f. Other Facilities

The Resort has plenty of additional facilities, both free and payable ones. There is a fitness centre in one of the buildings on the cliff, facing the beach below if you fancy doing some working out. If you’d rather do your work out outdoor, you can always go for a jog along the sandy beach or skip the buggy ride and take a walk instead around the Resort. If you want something more, there’s always the jungle trekking option.

Resort guests playing in and taking advantage of the end-of-monsoon-season waves 
There are also plenty of water sport and beach games activities which are suitable for guests regardless of whether they travel solo or a couple or in a group. For relaxation, there’s a spa centre onsite. If you’re here at the Resort for some diving and snorkelling, here’s the good news: the Resort has its own dive centre.

Personally, for me, I’d be more than happy to just lounge or take a stroll along the private beach. Or get into the sea, or the pool if the waves at the beach are too rough. In all likelihood though, you might have a better chance of finding me back in my suite, enjoying the Spa bathtub, haha!

In case of small emergencies, there is also a clinic in the Resort’s compound.

In terms of entertainment, the Resort holds their evening entertainment – live music - at Asean Terrace Lounge, at least during our stay. The General Manager of the Resort, however, has said that they are looking to have this on a more permanent basis. If you feel like singing yourself, there are a few karaoke rooms available for rent.

The Taaras also offers several tour packages if you’d like to venture further out of the Resort. A group of us went on a diving trip while the rest, a snorkelling trip to Redang Island Marine Park with the Resort. If you don’t plan on doing anything else, I’d recommend you not to miss, at least, the snorkelling trip in the Marine Park. It’s a whole different and amazingly beautiful world underneath the waters there. I still cannot get over how beautiful it is and how much I regret not having an underwater camera/casing with me during the trip!

The view underwater - the corals, the reefs, the fish, everything! - is simply magical!

Just before I left the Resort on the last day to catch the boat to the mainland, I asked the General Manager if there’s any new thing/activity that he’s bringing to the Resort. He more or less confirmed that there’d be underwater scooters available at the Resort by this July and a flying fox is being considered to be put up between the hill and the sea! I know I’m afraid of heights but I don’t care, bring me back to The Taaras when they are ready, please!

On second thought, I don't care if they are ready or not, just bring me back to The Taaras already!

2. Where to Eat

Apart from Asean All Day Dining, where we had our breakfast and also spent most of our dining hours, there are 3 other eateries at the Resort, including a beach bar that is called Bayu Bar. We also had a western dinner one night at Beach Brasserie, which serves western, Japanese and Indian cuisines. The fourth dining option is Asean Terrace Lounge, which serves light bites and drinks.

If you prefer to have your meal outside, I noted that there’s a small restaurant located about 5 minutes’ walk from the entrance called Aima Grill Fish Restaurant. I didn't try this restaurant, however.

3. Getting Around 

3a. How to get there:

Redang Island Airstrip
The best way to get to the Resort is by a charter flight – with Prima Air - flying direct into Redang airstrip from Subang SkyPark, Kuala Lumpur's "city" airport. This option, however, is only offered through some packages by the Resort and flies only on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. If you would like to fly on a commercial flight, Kuala Terengganu Airport (TGG) is the nearest airport and from there you can arrange for a land/boat transfer to Redang Island with the Resort. 

If you’re driving or taking a bus but arranging the boat transfer with the Resort, they would advise you which jetty to go to, either Merang jetty or Duyong Marina jetty. Just don’t go to Marang jetty like we almost did! 😁

3b. Interesting places nearby, if any: 

With all the onsite facilities and activities on offer, and not to forget the private beach, the Resort is meant for some relaxing time away from the city. Its location, however, means that guests would also have easy access to some great snorkelling and diving experience as Redang Marine Park Centre is located just across the water from the island’s jetty.

Tip: As most who travel to Redang Island would probably head there either by flying or driving into Kuala Terengganu first, I'd definitely recommend them to spend some time in the town as well rather than just quickly pass through it on the way to the jetty for the boat ride to the island. Read:
Why You Shouldn't Skip Kuala Terengganu
You might just be surprised! ðŸ˜‰

4. Location 

5. Further Information

The Taaras Beach & Spa Resort, Redang Island, Terengganu, Malaysia
+609-630 8888
info@thetaaras.com; sales@thetaaras.com
Website: The Taaras or Berjaya Hotels & Resorts | Facebook | Instagram

Check in 3 p.m. / Check out 12 noon.

Tip: Do check out their Facebook page and/or Instagram accounts as they do have online promotions and easy contests from time to time! I'd just missed an easy contest on their Facebook page that offered a 3D/2N stay at the Resort as a prize!

Are you on Pinterest? If you are, use these photos to bookmark and or share this blog post. 😉

A Thank You & Disclosure Note
I would like to thank the management & staff of Berjaya Hotels & Resorts group and The Taaras Beach & Spa Resort, Redang for the arrangement to stay at the Resort. A big thank you also goes to other sponsors that include Anytime Fitness (perli ke apa ni?), Starbucks, Krispy Kreme and Floats2U. The sponsorship, however, has in no way affected my review of the Resort, although I'm getting concerned about my weight now.

For blog entries on Malaysia, click here.

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Comments and feedback are always appreciated. So do leave one or two if you have the time. Thank you!

  1. Wahhhh... The place looks Amazing. Looks like your food shots improved too. ;)

    1. Ha! The place is amazing! Totally enjoyed my stay there. Food shots improved eh? Maybe becoz they are sedap and it translates into nice photos, hahaha!

  2. What a good review...so informative and insightful..the pictures are beautiful especially the kuih lopes and ketayap.

    1. Thank you! But that's not kuih lopes, I think they call it kuih sagu. Kuih ketayap itu betul tapi I call it kuih gulung, heh!

  3. I always have the same kind of misgivings when I do a comp'd hotel review. But, I know in my heart I will try to be fair - and if the service really isn't good then I'll contact the PR and ask them how they'd like me to proceed. In your case this all looks pretty spectacular - I love the Spa bath with a view!!! - I grew up in Malaysia and I'd love to go back!

    1. Hi Fiona! That's exactly what I'd do. However, luckily for me, there wasn't much to complain about the place and the service when I was there. I think one of the factors could be down to the new management of the hotel. The spa bath with a view feature totally won my heart. I totally love it! Imagine going back to the suite and the spa bath for some more of relaxing time after spending time at the beach! You should totally consider the resort if you ever come back to Malaysia! :)

  4. WOW! The suites look incredible, that stunning spa tub would have tempted me to spend a lot of time in the room, hahaha. I've never been to Malaysia, it looks like a Zen paradise where you stayed. Thanks for info about booking with kids.

    1. Hi Tracey! That's what happened to me with the spa bath tub, haha! The island - Redang - is pretty much a popular beach/island destination in the region, often cited as one of the most beautiful in Asia and the world, so staying at a resort like this on such a beautiful beach/island really felt like you've discovered paradise.

  5. Thanks for your honest disclosure in the beginning. I can understand the inner battle of wanting to be honest, but doing your job to review places. Overall though it looks like a fantastic place with some great amenities (the dolphin chocolate is so cute) and staff. Thanks for sharing this lovely and detailed review!

    1. Hi Wandering Chocobo! I'm happy to have given the resort a shot despite the initial impression that I got following the bad review that I'd read about. The only problem that I have now is that I miss this little paradise quite badly and hope that I'd manage to get back there again soon. ;)

  6. Thanks for the thoughtful and comprehensive review. I'm happy that the potential pitfall of bad food didn't come to pass. However, having poor internet when it's supposed to be widely available and free would drive me totally nuts, especially if I was on the clock, trying to post on social media during the stay! I am moving to Asia soon, and this actually looks like a fantastic weekend getaway from KL. Planning weekends away already .... :)

    1. Hi Julie! I'd feel the same about the internet connection elsewhere but it's hard to stay annoyed when you're at a such beautiful place. It's like the power above conspired to make sure that I forget about work and enjoy this little paradise fully instead, haha! ;) I guess it goes without saying that I'd totally recommend the resort for a long weekend getaway from KL!

  7. I can't imagine not enjoying this beautiful resort. Maybe just the time that it takes to get there... I also can't imagine it receiving a negative review. Beautiful room and spa tub, great views, beautiful beaches...and that amazing infinity pool! Wow!

    1. Hi Tami, that's exactly what I thought - which made me decide to give it a go in the first place instead of what I initially read about the place. And I couldn't be happier that I decided to try the place out. With the new charter airline service direct to the island, the resort is now just about a 1-hour flight away from Kuala Lumpur, which makes it a great long weekend getaway destination.

  8. The resort looks fabulous. Love how it's nestled up in the tree covered hillside, it looks so pristine up there. The view from the infinity pool is incredible too.

    1. That's what I really love about the resort - the combination of rocky hill, the green jungle and the white sandy beach, all in one place! And not to forget, a beautiful marine park not that far away.

  9. Talk about luxury! I love the little chocolate plate! :) I wish I had one of those waiting for me every night before bed, haha.

    1. It almost broke my heart having to eat those 2 dolphins ;)

  10. You can't beat an ocean view from a suite in a beautiful hotel like this! If I could afford to do it every time, I totally would stay in a place like Taaras for sure. It looks like you had a wonderful time and I've heard amazing things about Malaysia as well. I would love to check it out for a trip in the future :)

    1. I sure did have a great time there! You should definitely consider Malaysia for a trip! Besides attractions & places of interests in the country, you can also use it as a base to explore the region.

  11. Best nya swimming pool tu...

    Feel lonely? Find one lah. Bukan dah jumpa ramai orang ke?

    btw, betul ke enjoying roller coaster ride at theme park??? kah!

    1. Hahaha! Yg ni memang best, gelak non-stop kot. Tak tahu apasal macam high gitu, haha!

  12. The ambiance really feels good. I've never been to Taaras Beach but I find it comfortable. Thanks for introducing. The view from the Taaras Villa is incredible.

  13. Such a detailed and useful review, Raw! Do you recommend taking sea sickness pills?

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